Friday, 10 April 2015

Not many people, but lots of birds at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 18th March 15

Weather: Overcast with little sunshine. Cold wind.

Bird Total: 56
Plus: Fox; Muntjac; Rabbit.

It was another brilliant day out today. Just when you think you're not going to take any photos, something happens and you start clicking the button! It was one of those days, today.

Just before I had left home, I watched Carol forecast the weather on the BBC News channel, to see what the day would bring. Unfortunately, Carol got it badly wrong! Forecasting mainly sun, with a little cloud and quite warm. But it turned out to be quite overcast and cloudy all day. And the cold wind reminded me of January! I guess it's not so much a forecast as an educated guess.

Anyway, while I was waiting for the train, I spotted a Muntjac, out over the adjacent field.

I arrived at the Watchpoint around the usual time and looked out over Great Hardmead Lake, only to find it strangely quiet. The Watchpoint, not the lake. Earlier, walking up the trail, I heard a Green Woodpecker and a Song Thrush.

Looking out I could see 3 Little Egrets, all in hunt mode; 5 Grey Heron, not doing particularly much; 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebes, just swimming aimlessly about; 2 Common Snipe, just in front of the Watchpoint, both probing the ground with their long bills; 1 Redshank, of the 5 that had been reported today; a couple of dozen Lapwing, all going up at the drop of a hat and plenty of Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon. So, plenty to see.

Way out to my left I spotted a Cormorant catching and swallowing a huge fish. It was so big that a siesta was probably called for. A Pied Wagtail flew overhead, calling as it went. A Cetti's Warbler was singing in the reeds to my right, while the Little Egret and Grey Heron counts then went up to 4 and 8 respectively.

But the fiercely cold wind made me head off earlier than I wanted and so I headed towards the Gladwin Hide. On the way, as I looked out over the lake, I could see a female and 2 male Goldeneye. One of the pairs of GCGs were in courtship mode, head-shaking, while a 3rd looked on. Probably jealous.

There wasn't too much to add looking out from the Hide itself. A Grey Heron was standing, statuesque-like, opposite the Hide, amongst the trees; there were quite a few Wigeon at this end, while a 2nd female Goldeneye could be seen.

Just before I was about to leave I spotted a pair of Egyptian Geese out to the right, swimming away from me.

I headed off and decided to take another stroll through the Woods. I hadn't intended to, mainly because it had been quiet on earlier visits, but the clouds were still out and it was still rather breezy. And I didn't want to be in the James Hide too early.

The other reason was that I wanted to try and spot the Water Voles that had been seen in recent days. They were being spotted on the trail upto the White Hide. But I knew that I would be very lucky to see them in this weather.

But the Woods surprised me by, firstly, being full of bird song, most notably the first calling Chiffchaffs of the season and then a lovely Marsh Tit arriving and feeding quite close to me.

I took a quick look out over the Bittern Pool, more in hope than anything else. I'm pretty certain that the Bittern has now departed for the season. I also tried to find more Moths around here, too, after the success of last time. But, failing in both, I went and sat down in the James Hide.

Delighted to find it empty, I opened up the shutters and sat down. Initially, it was very quiet. Most of the feeders were empty, with the birds concentrating on the nuts. A male Pheasant walked out in to the open, halfway up the reed-cut. As I trained my Bins on him, I could see a Common Snipe just behind him, again probing away. I was fairly surprised to see one in this area, let alone in the open.

Then, out to my right, creeping up the tree - you've guessed it - a lovely Treecreeper. It flew from tree to tree, disappearing into the thick undergrowth. When I looked back over the lagoon a second Snipe had appeared, right in front of the Hide, just over the other side of the pond. It must have walked out while I was looking at the 'Creeper. It had also promptly tucked its' bill in and drifted off to sleep.

Just then, one of the new Reserve volunteers came in. He hung around for a few minutes before departing. Surprisingly I didn't see many people at all today. Possibly because of the cold winds.

I then heard the familiar screech of a Buzzard and, looking up over Easneye Wood, I could see at least 3, with an accompanying Red Kite. The Treecreeper made a few more appearances over the next 20 minutes or so and then I had a visit from my old mate, Phil the Pheasant!

As usual, he ignored me and started to vacuum up all the spilt seeds. He was looking good and was sporting some beautiful plumage! It didn't look as if he would have any problem attracting the Hens this year.

The sun had begun to try and make an appearance and so I made the decision to try and locate the Water Voles. The Bank Voles outside the Hide had again disappointed me and stayed hidden. In this wind I'm wasn't too surprised.

I headed around the trail towards the White Hide. About halfway there I stopped at the area where the Voles were seen. After about 30 minutes and with not a sight nor sound of them, I reluctantly carried on to the Hide. But I did get a good view of a pair of singing Chiffchaffs, quite close.

Lunch. I was glad I brought the coffee flask.

And, as is always the case, halfway through a ham and mustard sandwich, the bird activity started. A Little Egret had decided to venture in close, to the left of the Hide. I tried to stay hidden, behind the lens and was rewarded with a pretty good close up view, as it fished, shaking its' feet in the water, to stir up his own lunch.

It soon departed but was replaced by a 2nd which was about to follow the same route when it spied me and flew off. Finishing the sandwich I could still see the Redshank, out in the distance, while another Chiffchaff hopped about the tree to my left.

I headed back along the trail but, again, was disappointed not to see any Voles. But a female Muntjac did walk into view, cropping the grass out to my right. I froze when she saw me but when I tried to bring up the camera she jumped away. Typical female.

I walked down towards the Dragonfly Trail. This time I walked up the lower trail, hoping to get better views of the Bullfinches around the Bridge area. Unfortunately, a couple of guys were feeding the fish from the bridge and had probably scared off the birds. Then a woman with 2 dogs walked noisily by. The dogs, not the woman.

So I made my way up to the Trail. The feeders had been replenished here and there was plenty of activity around them. Goldfinches were first in the pecking order, following by Great and Blue Tit. A hen Pheasant was below, imitating Phil.

A Jay flew across and landed in a tree, near the walkway. Then a male Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in from the right and attacked the nuts. Further back, I could see a small flock of Redwing. On the walk back to the James Hide another GSW could be heard drumming and then I spotted it, high up on one of the distant trees, banging his head against the wood. I've done it myself on occasion.

When I arrived back in the James Hide a couple of guys were already there. Two more then walked in behind me. Over the course of the next hour we were all treated to great views of Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail. Marsh Tits appeared on the feeders, while more Buzzards flew over.

Then, at the end of the reed-cut, a Red-legged Partridge appeared, a first for me around here. Soon after, the Kingfisher briefly flew in and perched up. It was a wonderful hour to be in the Hide.

I left one guy in the Hide and headed back to the Watchpoint. I debated about whether to stay and see the Barn Owl but decided, in the end, to head off. But not before I saw a Fox asleep in one of the far reed-cuts and then, at least 3 Sand Martins flying out to our left, high in the sky. A definite sign of Spring!

On the trail back to the station I fed the last of my brown, wholemeal bread to a grateful pair of Mallards. I even gave them a handful of sunflower seeds. Hey, that's the sort of guy I am!

'I went to a therapy group to help me cope with loneliness, but no one else turned up.'